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Learning About Avulsion Fractures

What is an avulsion fracture?

An avulsion fracture occurs when an injury causes a ligament or tendon to break off (avulse) a small piece of a bone that's attached to it. The ligament or tendon also may be damaged. This type of injury can happen in the hip, ankle, knee, heel, elbow, or pelvis.

What can cause it?

An avulsion fracture can be caused by any activity that involves physical force. It can happen when you fall, kick, jump, or have to speed up or slow down very quickly. It may be caused by direct force, such as a hard tackle in football. Or it may be caused by indirect force. This can happen if you make a sudden turn in soccer or basketball.

What are the symptoms?

You may feel a pop and sudden pain when the fracture occurs. You will probably have some pain and swelling in the area of the fracture. Sometimes the area will be bruised. Symptoms usually improve after the injury heals.

How is it diagnosed?

The doctor will examine the injured area. You'll be asked about your symptoms and past health. You will probably have an X-ray to confirm the fracture.

How is an avulsion fracture treated?

Small fractures are usually treated with ice and rest. You may need a splint or a cast. These fractures rarely cause any problems, such as pain or discomfort, after the injury heals.

You may need surgery if the bone fragment is large and widely separated from the rest of the bone. Surgery may also be done if a tendon or ligament is badly detached.

You can return to sports or other physical activities after about 6 weeks to 6 months. How long it takes to recover depends on where the injury is, how serious it is, and how it is treated. It also depends on how quickly you have full range of motion without pain.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

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